the criminology and criminal justice network
The 19th century physician and proclaimed "father of criminology" Cesare Lombroso, became prominent after his published book The Criminal Man. Lombroso's theory of the atavistic criminal influenced research and studies of human behavior and crime causation throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Cesare Lombroso, a major theorist in the positivist school of criminology, looked mainly at the biological and environmental factors when determining causes of criminal behavior while the positive school of criminology overall looked at the biological, psychological, and social factors when determining the nature, extent, and causes of criminal behavior. Physicians such as phrenologist studied the face of criminals while physiognomists looked at the external shape of the skull to formulate assumptions and questions of physical features with direct connections to criminality. Although the physical criminal type that Lombroso tried so desperately to create was debunked by modern scholars, his idea of the criminal man has continuously been used to link black men to criminality, therefore creating the notion of the criminal black man.
The notion of the criminal black man began during the Reconstruction Era (1863-1877) in the United States. After the Emancipation of African slaves by the Thirteenth Amendment, white planter elites along with poor whites, were suddenly afraid that the newly freed slaves would collectively retaliate with rage because of the conditions and inhumane treatment they endured during slavery. During this era, newly freed slaves were viewed as hostile and dangerous. Also, whites no longer had their only source of revenue that they could control. Because of the lack of progression and the fear of a black backlash, whites had to find a new form of control that they could impose upon blacks to relegate them back to second class status. This new form of control was implemented through black codes also known as slave codes. These codes literally forced black people back into the repressive conditions that they recently left. Literally every action by blacks were considered criminal to whites. Newly enforced laws were enacted solely behind the reasons of fear and control. The convict lease system was created in which black prisoners were leased to private entities for the sole purpose of profit. It was then that the free black man became known as the criminal black man.
During the time of the convict lease system, black men were targeted, arrested, and convicted, disproportionately because they were now the product of a new booming cash system. They would be leased to a private contractor and forced to work from sunrise to sunset. Their new status in society resembled their previous second class status and it was perfectly legal. Their was a clause in the Thirteenth Amendment that stated "nor slavery or involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime". Southern states used this clause as the basis for their new system of both racial and social control. Black men in the south would now be labeled as criminals then incorporated into a social institution that would forever control their lives.
Decades later specifically during the 1980s, the War on Drugs was launched. This new government initiative at no point of its discourse sought to eradicate drugs from American society. Moreover, this government initiative was launched before the crack cocaine epidemic even became an issue in the black community. However, this was an excuse to relegate people of color back to an existence of second class status as they were during slavery. One thing that people must understand is that white supremacy never changes its substance, it only changes its form. New forms of white supremacy are planned years before they come into existence. The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected black people in a way that is unprecedented. Black Americans comprise of about 12% of the U.S. population but a little over 40 % of the U.S. prison population. The majority of black men incarcerated in America's penal system are there for non-violent drug related offenses. Some scholars have claimed that external factors such as white supremacy have influenced crime control policies. The idea of the criminal black man has been reinforced in the contemporary through police practices such as racial profiling and pretext stops.
The phrase "Driving While Black" has been used to described the various instances in which black men have been stopped by law enforcement officers solely because of the color of their skin and their appearance. Black men have been targeted by highway troopers and local law enforcement for drug stops in which in most instances they are clean. In fact, many officers assigned to narcotics units and special drug task forces have admitted that they are trained to think drug dealer when spotting a black male in a nice car. Racial profiling has reinforced the notion of the criminal black man. His physical characteristics are linked to criminality. However, crime control policies and the politicized "Tough on Crime" approach have become popular to the American public. The constant everyday police harassment and physical, mental, and verbal abuse experienced by black men have been ignored by the masses of American society. Cesare Lombroso's theory of the atavistic criminal was debunked by behavioral science scholars however, the media has exacerbated the problem by feeding racial images to the American public each and every day. It is to the point where some people actually believe that black men are savages, outcasts, and a threat to the white race.
This notion of the criminal black man has unfortunately influenced policies to tailor the interest of the elite. Black men are being eradicated from mainstream society by the thousands and the problem is only getting worse. Studies have actually shown that blacks commit crimes at no higher rate than whites, but the fear of white extinction has called for stricter forms of white supremacy. Without criminal law reform, the notion of the criminal black man could eventually lead to the extermination of the black race.
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